By Alex Tanzi | Bloomberg
An essential part of the “American Dream” is buying a home, paying it off over time and retiring with hundreds of thousands of dollars in home equity.
Student loan burdens flip this scenario, according to a study from the Jain Family Institute that found that high student debt has become a major obstacle to buying a home — especially among young borrowers with relatively high incomes.
The research raises questions about the value of a university degree. For young adults earning $100,000 or more, higher student debt corresponds to lower home ownership in each year of the 10-year study.
Overall, the homeownership rate among student borrowers ages 18 to 35 declined 24% in the decade to 2019, according to the report. People living in black and Asian communities experienced the largest decline — even when they started at the lowest rates in 2009.
Owning a home has traditionally played a major role in building the financial security of millions of Americans. In 2019, homeowners’ average net worth was $255,000, compared to $6,300 for renters or others, according to a 2020 survey of consumer finance from the Federal Reserve.
The freeze on student loan payments since the start of the pandemic — which was recently extended for another three months — may have enabled some middle- and high-income student loan borrowers to buy a home, researcher Edward Neelagh, author of the Jain Report, said by email. But the sharp rise in home prices was also a deterrent.
Only debt cancellation or a significant reduction in interest rates is likely to have an impact on home ownership.
Nilag found that as more Americans attend college, the average number of students who borrow gets poorer. The higher the higher education fee, the higher the student loan amount.
From 2009 to 2019, the estimated median income of debtor students in the Jain sample shrank to $67,364 from $82,765. At the same time, the percentage of people with outstanding student loan balances of $25,000 or more rose.
Nilag, who has tracked more than 800,000 student loan borrowers, wrote in his report. “While the decline in home ownership is just one of the many troubling trends shaping the lives of young Americans, its prevalence may signal a new normal.”